Zaevion Dobson threw himself over three girls as gang members began firing randomly into a crowd of strangers, sacrificing his own life to save them.
Now the 15-year-old high school football star is being hailed as a hero for his final act, as police decried the senseless violence that took his life.
The incident took place on Thursday night, with Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch saying it began with an unrelated shooting. After 46-year-old Lisa Perry was shot inside her apartment, the woman’s 23-year-old son, Brandon Perry, then left with a group of men to seek revenge, ESPN reported.
Police say the group drove to another neighborhood where Zaevion Dobson lived and “randomly fired multiple times.” Dobson shielded three women during the shooting, all of whom survived. But Dobson was not so fortunate, as he later died of his injuries.
— WBIR Channel 10 (@wbir) December 18, 2015
Zaevion William Dobson, a 15-year-old high school football player, was killed shielding 3 girls from gunfire. https://t.co/vibuGzJs1y
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 19, 2015
Brandon Perry was also shot and ended up crashing his car, police said. He died of his injuries in the early morning hours on Friday.
Rausch said the shootings were gang related, but does not believe Zaevion Dobson was connected to any of it.
“Unfortunately, they picked a random group of young men and women who were just hanging out and trying to prepare to celebrate the holiday,” he said.
Teachers and administrators at Fulton High School, where Dobson was a junior, remembered him as a model student.
“He was really one of our success stories,” Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero said. “Involved in sports, a mentee of one of our organizations in town. But still he falls victim to this.”
Zaevion’s brother, Zack Dobson, said the 15-year-old was obsessed with football.
“That’s what he did. He came home from school did his homework, watched film, watched documentaries of it, players. That’s what he loved, football,” said Zack Dobson.
Zack Dobson was a football standout himself, and even gained some national attention earlier this year. A video of Zack catching a pass while doing backflips during practice went viral, even showing up on SportsCenter.
Zaevion’s coach, Rob Black, said the 15-year-old appeared to be a natural leader on the team.
“He’s a sophomore only and already successful, already leading a life that’s contagious that people follow. So very liked by his peers and his teachers and his teammates. And that makes him successful,” he said, via CBS News.
The story is reminiscent of another tragedy from earlier this year. In West Oakland, California, a young mother lost her life while protecting three young children during a gun battle. Chyemil Pierce, 30, was hit by a stray bullet when two rival gangs began shooting.
Witnesses say Pierce shouted to her children to hide, and they ran around a house and managed to remain safe. Gunfire then erupted, with witnesses saying the gang members fired between 35 and 50 shots at one another. Amazingly, none of the rival gang members were seriously injured, though Pierce was struck and killed.
“Every life taken by senseless gun violence is a tragedy. Without a doubt, the families who have lost loved ones face the most immeasurable pain, but our city also suffers. We cannot flourish as a city under siege. We must come together to end the violence,” he said.
There appears to be at least some justice on the way in the Tennessee shooting. Police have charged 20-year-old Christopher Bassett in relation to the killing of Zaevion Dobson. It is not clear if police have other suspects in the murder.
[Image via ESPN screenshot]